It’s been a few weeks now since Tyler posted that Poppy , one of our lowline cows, was ready have her yak x calf “any day now”. Clearly, we are still learning the signs and everything as we go. She started having a lot of discharge on Feb 10, so that was our first indication that we should move her in behind the barn. Temperatures were still dropping as low as -30*C at times, so we wanted to be able to put her into the barn when the time came.
Every day, we would go out and check her, multiple times. We were looking for all the signs that would come as the day got closer. There were quite a few times where we would check her and it would look as if her back end was getting looser and her udder was filling, but it took quite a while for her to actually get to the point of being ready to give birth. Through the process of watching her every day and seeing the changes she went through, we definitely learned a lot.
Finally, on Monday night, when I got home from work, I saw Tyler standing by the barn, so I yelled to him “no baby yet?”. He told me she was actually having it right then, so I headed over to watch. Tyler thought she seemed like she was struggling, so of course I panicked a bit and called my dad to ask what to do. I ended that conversation with “can you just come out here?” and hung up the phone. Just a couple seconds later the baby was out and on the ground. Tyler moved quickly to remove the bag because it was partially covering the calf’s face. We stood and watched as the cow cleaned him up and he stood up, took his first steps and his first drink. We were so excited, he seemed to be doing great!
Tyler said that prior to her having the calf, he saw her calf from last year that had been weaned for over 4 months sucking on her so he quickly stopped her and separated them. We put the cow and calf in the barn for the night and the next day he was up, sucking and seemed healthy.
Then, Wednesday morning, Tyler called me from the barn. He said he wasn’t sure if the calf had been stepped on or if something else was wrong, but he was just laying in the corner and wasn’t doing good. After calling a few vet offices, I got in touch with someone who was willing to come in prior to 8:00 when they opened. We quickly got the calf in the truck and Tyler took him to the vet. After examining him, the vet said that it was likely an infection that could quickly spread through his blood and to his brain and if that was the case, there was little chance that they could save him, but they would do what they could. They gave him antibiotics & some vitamins and said they would try to get his temperature up and observe him for a couple hours. Basically he would either start improving or go downhill in that time.
Unfortunately, I got a call a couple hours later that he didn’t make it. We are completely heartbroken!! We have such a hard time with having to say goodbye to animals on our farm, even when they have only been with us for that short of time, and it’s especially difficult when it’s a baby.
Every experience, good or bad, is an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s possible that the calf didn’t get the colostrum that he needed because the cow allowed the yearling to suck and drink it all, so he didn’t have the antibodies he needed to fight the infection, or its possible that he just wasn’t strong enough for some other reason. We will never know for sure. But I do know that at times like this, being a farmer sucks!!